#349 Poor Knights of Windsor (1937)

The Poor Knights of Windsor was a charity set up centuries ago by Edward III soon after he created the Order of the Garter in the mid-14th century to give alms to old and retired soldiers that had lived to protect the country. Quite ahead of his time, I think. How this dessert came to be called Poor Knights of Windsor I do not know. The earliest mention of this dessert I can find crops up in Elizabeth Cleland’s 1755 book A new and easy method of cookery.

Edward III creates the Order of the Garter

Almost 2 years ago I made the 1420 version of this dessert, also called pain perdu. This medieval recipe gave reasonably precise instructions to make it (see here for that post). Perhaps surprisingly, this more recent recipe from Ambrose Heath’s 1937 book Good Sweets, is rather scant on instruction:
Cut a French roll in slices and soak them in sherry. Then dip them in beaten yolks of eggs and fry them. Make a sauce of butter, sherry and sugar to serve with them.

Brevity is obviously his middle name. Here’s what I did…

First I took some of Jane’s advice and that was to use not just any old French roll, but a nice, rich brioche (like it wouldn’t be rich enough without!?). Although brioche wasn’t around much in the 1970s it is widely available these days.

I beat a couple of egg yolks with a little water just to make them easier to work with. I took a slice of brioche and sprinkled it liberally with dry sherry, then dipped it in the egg yolks and fried them on a moderate heat in a frying pan with butter. I kept the poor knights warm in a low oven whilst I got on with making the sherry sauce.

I melted 2 ounces of butter slowly in a small saucepan, then I turned up the heat and stirred in a tablespoon of sugar.  When it had dissolved and was bubbling away, I added 2 tablespoons of dry sherry and that was it! Very simple indeed.

I served up the poor knights with a little of the buttery sauce drizzled over them.

#349 Poor Knights of Windsor (1937). It’s not very often that I make a recipe from the book just for myself, but  this one I did. I thought it would be awful – I don’t usually like alcohol in desserts, but I was so, so wrong! It wasn’t as rich or as heady as I expected, the secret was to make the sauce very sweet and to liberally sprinkle the brioche with the sherry, rather than soak it. Very good 7/10.

#125 Whim-Wham

For dessert, Charmolian requested Whim-Wham. Not a proper dessert, but more a “tasty mouthful”. Here at Grigson Towers, we’re all about tasty mouthfuls. Plus it was an Eighteenth Century recipe so it fitted the bill. The other good thing about this dessert is that it can be knocked up in minutes… “Whim-Wham means something trifling, i.e. a trifle”. She goes on to say that it is also “delicious and not too heavy”. All boxes ticked there then.

For each person:
Start off by breaking a sponge finger into four pieces and laying it in the bottom of a small ramekin or cup. Next pour over a tablespoon of sherry or Muscatel dessert wine – I (or, rather, Charmolian) used sherry. On top of this dollop on 2 tablespoons of whipped cream. To decorate, add half a teaspoon of chopped roasted hazelnuts and something sweet – Griggers says some leaves cut from angelica or cumin comfits, but not – heaven forbid – glace cherries as they would be “out of style” (this is one of the few times that the book shows its age). The most difficult part of the whole meal was getting hold of angelica – I eventually got some in Tesco, if anybody is wondering. I have no idea what cumin comfits are, but they sound delicious – I may try and locate some…


FYI: Angelica has been cultivated since the Tenth Century as food and for its medicinal properties – it has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It has been noted also for its wonderful taste and aroma – compared to musk and juniper. I found that it was completely tasteless in its candied form. Hey-ho.

FYI2: It is called angelica because the Archangel Gabriel supposedly informed us of its uses. That was nice of him, wasn’t it?

#125 Whim-Wham – 3/10. Ms Grigson should be done for false advertising here – the phrases “tasty mouthful” and “not too heavy” are very much – in my opinion – fibs. They were so rich, alcoholic and massive. By the time dessert was brought out I was a little tipsy and for somehow manage to not only polish off mine, but also someone else’s. The next day, when I thought of them, I puked. Next time (as if there will be one), I’ll used Muscatel wine. Bleurgh…

#89 Steamed Ginger Pudding

My new ‘mate’ Butters came round on Saturday, so an evening of scoffing food, watching crap telly and playing computer games, amongst other activities was planned. Totally un-in-keeping with this project, I decided to do a Thai meal, so earlier in the day, I went into Manchester’s China Town with my chum Stuart for supplies. As you may, or may not, know I’m an old hand at Thai, Indian and most other popular Asian cookery and the point of this blog was to teach myself English cookery, but Stuart can’t cook for toffee and since Thai food is probably the place to start – as long as you can chop and read, you can cook Thai – the trip was really to help him get going, but also Butters (same nickname as me! What’s THAT about?) likes East Asian food, so I thought I’d cook some too. I made a fragrant tofu and tomato soup for starters and then a red curry. For pudding, however, I thought I’d do a Grigson but try to pick a dessert that fit the meal, so I went for a steamed ginger pudding. It contains that spicy-sweet stem ginger, that you get in jars. Brilliant. I love steam puddings, they’re da shit…

Start off by buttering a one pint pudding bowl. Then, cream together 3 ounces of butter with two of sugar, beat in a large egg, 4 ounces of self-raising flour, 4 ounces of chopped stem ginger, along with a tablespoon of ginger syrup from the jar and ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger. The dough should be quite soft, so if not add a little milk to loosen it up slightly. Put in the pudding basin and cover well (if you don’t have a plastic one with lid, use a sheet of foil with a pleat in it, secured with an elastic band). Steam this for two hours. I put it on just before I started making the main.


Turn the pudding out onto a plate if you like – always impressive. Serve with custard, cream, or with this sherry sauce given by Griggers (leave out the sherry and you get a thin, frothy custard sauce):

Whisk together two large egg yolks, half a tablespoon of sugar and ¼ pint of sherry in a bowl or basin. Place the basin over a pan of just-simmering water and whisk until the sauce thickens and becomes frothy, adding the cream slowly as you go. Unlike custard, this can’t be made in advance so make sure your guests don’t mind you disappearing for 10 minutes between courses.

#89 Steamed Ginger Pudding – 7/10. I fooking LOVE puddings. Plus a ginger pudding really is an English classic, and now that it’s autumn, there shall be many more. Really they all score at least 9 for me, but I reckon there are better ones to come, such as – in many people’s opinion – the ultimate: Sussex Pond Pudding. I may do that one next. The sherry sauce was odd though, the strong sherry flavour didn’t drown out the ginger flavour of the pudding, but I think I would’ve preferred good old custard, so I give that a 5/10 – nice, but won’t make it again…

But, all-in-all the evening was a total success, and Butters and I had an ace evening. I am planning the next one already…